Powell River: A Busy Marine Port to Laid Back Lifestyle & Everything In Between
Like almost any place in British Columbia, Powell River is actually much more than simply "Powell River". From the Old Townsite, to the charmingly named communities of Cranberry and Wildwood, there are many distinct sub-communities of this unique region. Below is information about the main districts:
Westview is the most populated area of Powell River, and is the main destination for visitors to the region, with its diverse array of businesses, and many familiar franchises such as restaurants and hardware chains. Marine Avenue, following (naturally) the waterfront along Powell River, offers a great mix of eclectic shopping, with gift stores, a wide variety of interesting restaurants, service businesses, bookstores and of course, the Tourism Powell River office
This is the spot to be at the annual Blackberry Festival for the renowned "Street Party" held every August to coincide with the ripening of the blackberries, and is also where Seafair is held every year. Just on the edge of town is the wonderful Willingdon Beach municipal park and campsite, a popular destination in the summer months.
Westview is also where those visitors continuing on to Vancouver Island on the Circle Pac Tour catch the ferry to Comox, or detour instead to beautiful Texada Island aboard another smaller ferry to Blubber Bay.
Cranberry originally grew out of an early 1900s economy built on animal farming and agriculture, and forestry jobs at shinglemills and sawmills, benefiting from the huge tracts of forests growing up from the ocean's edge and easily transported via the network of lakes in the district.
The land in the Cranberry district was subdivided in 1912, with lots going to returning WWI vets for the princely sum of $1. Cranberry is located one mile southeast of Westview and is a popular location for those wishing to set up home-based businesses.
The famous Cranberry Pottery originates from this area, and Cranberry Lake itself is home to millions of water lillies, a source of irritation to many in Powell River as they are choking the lake into a swamp, but of great interest to anyone interested in natural biology..
If you're heading to the ShingleMill Restaurant for dinner, you're visiting Wildwood as the ShingleMill lies at the foot of Wildwood Hill. Originally settled by hardy pioneers who claimed their 40 acre pre-exemptions by waiting in Vancouver for a serendipitous 40 days and nights on a first-come-first-served basis, the almost biblically-chosen few land grantees waded through the woods with their belongings on their backs to stake their flags for their new homesteads.
It was a rough life of rafting and dragging housewares, building and farm equipment onto the land, until the first bridge was built in 1916 and conditions for improving their homes improved. Wildwood has its own unique character, built on a history of rural isolation that, while dispensed with by all the modern conveniences, still lends the area a wonderful charm in direct opposition to today's common consumer-driven subdivisions.
The woods are ever-present, but the floatplanes land at Powell Lake, and tourists journey through Wildwood on their way to Lund, marvelling at the lush greenery and the expansive views from the top of Wildwood Hill.
Do you know who Lang Bay was named for? Renamed Lang Bay after the first World War after the three Lang brothers - Harry, Frank and Tom - who settled the area and then went on to serve in the Canadian Army, Lang Bay was originally called Wolfson Bay. It offers stunning views across Malaspina Strait, and access to great hiking and fishing. Destinations to note in this area include the Lang Bay Fish Hatchery and Palm Beach Regional Park.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia/Creative Commons
Texada Island, the largest of the Gulf Islands, is located about 50 miles north of Vancouver at its southernmost tip and about 5 miles southwest of Powell River. It is 32 miles long and six miles wide at its widest and is separated from the mainland by Malaspina Strait. Surviving middens and fish weirs show that First Nation People spent time on Texada long before Europeans discovered North America. These People didn't have permanent settlements on the island, because an ancient legend says the island rose from the sea and will sink again one day.
The Sliammon name for Texada Island is Si'yi yen. Don Jose Navarez, a Spanish seaman sighted and charted the island in 1791. Spanish explorers also named the small island just west from Texada (Lasqueti). While Spain did not have much interest in this area, Britain became a dominant force in the Pacific Northwest. At this time there was little activity along the coast, apart from fur trading, whaling, and cutting a few spars for sailing ships. Blubber Bay, which is now the site of the BC Ferry terminal was so named because it was used by whalers for the processing of their catches. Texada's modern history began in 1871, when iron ore was discovered on the northwest coast at Welcome Bay. That precipitated the boom of exploration on Texada.
Some time after 1877 marble was found, then in 1880 gold was discovered, where Van Anda is now and The Little Billie Mine began producing gold and copper. Logging has also been prevalent in this area during the late 1800s and 1900s. By 1898 Van Anda had become a boom town! People came from everywhere to live, work and spend their leisure time here. It boasted the only opera house north of San Francisco, had three hotels with saloons, a hospital, several stores and businesses, and an illegal distillery flourished in Pocahontas Bay supplying liquor to the United States during prohibition.
In 1910 the first of three serious fires completely destroyed the major buildings of Van Anda in only forty minutes. The optimism of the boom town led to rebuilding larger, more imposing structures - only to be destroyed by fire again in 1912. The third fire struck in 1917 leaving only Al Deighton's store which was saved by a bucket brigade. The building remains a fixture on the Van Anda waterfront today. Mining continued through the 20th century and today there are still a number of working limestone quarries on the island. The largest, located near the airport, ships out three million tonnes of limestone a year.
Image courtesy of the excellent blog, Slow Coast, from a piece by David Moore.
Today, Texada Island is largely a place where people come to to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and there are a variety of vacation rentals available. Many visitors spend their vacations here, returning in later years to retire in this peaceful community. The area boasts many lakes and hiking trails and most are accessible by car or 4 wheel drive.
There are many beaches accessible by land or water and beachfronts vary from large rocks to fine sand. You may also find a rock which can only be seen on Texada, "the flower rock". If you find one please enjoy its beauty but leave it behind for the next person to enjoy.
Although much of the old logging roads have been reclaimed by nature you will still see signs of this history everywhere. Shelter point, located on the west side of the islands, still displays the remains of a once thriving logging area. There are 2 major population areas on the island, Van Anda on the east side and Gillies Bay on the west side. While not all services may be available on the island, most major amenities such as foodstuffs, hardware & gas can be purchased here.
A medical clinic is located in Gillies Bay as well as a detachment of the RCMP. A regular car ferry service operates between Powell River and Texada daily with numerous sailings. Boat Moorage is available at Marble bay on the Van Anda side of the island but space is limited. Many boaters choose anchorage in the many bays around the island.
How to get to Texada Island
POWELL RIVER & TEXADA ISLAND RESOURCES
Powell River hangs out online at PowellRiver.ca.
Stay up to date with everything Texada (BC) at Texada.org.
Powell River Film Festival
PR Festival of Performing Arts
PR Westcoast Jazz Summit
PR Blues Festival
BC Bike Race
Texada Island Annual Fly-in
Texada Annual Space Camp
Texada Sandcastle Weekend
PR Seafair Festival
PR Blackberry Festival
PR Sunshine Music Festival
Great Powell River Area Parks
Powell River has a diversity of parks catering to a wide range of uses. Saltery Bay Provincial Park is the first park you'll encounter after disembarking from the Earl's Cove/Saltery Bay ferry. Typical of most provincial parks, huge trees and a shady drive welcome you into this expansive park established in 1962. A rocky beach day use area lies in contrast to the quiet treed settings of the campground. Duck Lake is a protected area for both migrating and non-migratory birds with excellent birdwatching opportunities.
Inland Lake Park was once fully wheelchair accessible via a wide flat path that encircled the lake and efforts are underway to renew this accessibility commitment. It offers a number of shaded campsites, a small dock and fishing. Copeland Islands Marine Park is a favorite day trip for boaters and paddlers - and for scuba divers. It is between Lund & Desolation Sound, and Desolation Sound is one of the jewels of BC's marine park system, encompassing 8,449 hectares, with some of the warmest saltwater swimming in the province.
Photo courtesy of Andy Cardiff of Malaspina Water Taxi, offering tours to Jedediah Island
Jedediah Island, itself entirely provincial parkland bought by a consortium that included the estate of Daniel Culver, the BC Government, the Friends of Jedediah, the Marine Parks Forever Society, the Nature Trust of British Columbia and individuals who all contributed to the fundraising efforts. This park is accessible via tourboats and water taxis from Pender Harbour and Powell River. The gone-wild horse of Jedediah that used to herd visitors up into the apple trees to pick for him may have passed on but visitors can still run across feral goats and a flock of sheep on the island.
IMPORTANT LINKS FOR POWELL RIVER & TEXADA ISLAND
I've also included links for Lasqueti Island and Jedediah Island.